In vivo microdialysis was employed in order to characterize the steady-state kinetics of the turnover of specific dopamine and serotonin metabolites in the rat striatum 48 h after surgery. Inhibitors of monoamine oxidase (MAO; pargyline) and catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT; Ro 40-7592) were administered, either separately or in conjunction, at doses sufficient to block these enzymes in the CNS. In some experiments, the acid metabolite carrier was blocked with probenecid. Temporal changes were then observed in the efflux of interstitial dopamine, 3-methoxytyramine (3-MT), 3,4-dihydroxyphenylacetic acid (DOPAC), homovanillic acid (HVA), and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA). The fractional rate constants for the accumulation or disappearance of the metabolites could be determined after pharmacological blockade of catabolic enzymes or the acid metabolite carrier. Interstitial 5-HIAA was found to be cleared with a half-life of approximately 2 h. After blockade of either MAO or COMT, HVA disappeared with a half-life of 17 min. Experiments employing probenecid suggested that some of the interstitial HVA was cleared by the acid metabolite carrier, the remainder being cleared by a probenecid-insensitive process, possibly conjugation. After MAO inhibition, DOPAC disappeared with an apparent half-life of 11.3 min. The rate of 3-MT accumulation after pargyline indicated that the majority of interstitial HVA (> 95%) is formed from DOPAC rather than 3-MT. The formation of 3-MT from interstitial dopamine, calculated from the accumulation rate of 3-MT after pargyline, appeared to follow first-order kinetics (k = 0.1 min-1).